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Social resources for early-stage Alzheimer's patients

Barcelona, 1 April 2003

Within the framework of its programme devoted to Alzheimer’s disease, ”la Caixa” Foundation has released five publications that seek, above all, to improve the quality of life of those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and are beginning to show the first symptoms of this form of dementia. Grouped under the common denominator of “social intervention resources”, these materials help the patient and his family to deal with matters related to their day-to-day life. They also show the patient the legal channels available to him for protecting his patrimony, and help him to make decisions concerning his “living will”. The living will is an advance directive for ensuring the dignity of those affected and can be of enormous help to patients with dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease appears gradually but progressively. The first symptoms are associated with a loss of “recent memory”. It is also frequent for the patient to undergo mood swings, show signs of apathy and tend to isolate himself in a family environment that he knows well. It is characteristic of this initial stage for the patient to forget appointments and telephone numbers or to make mistakes in simple math problems. Although he reasons and communicates well with others, he often has difficulty finding just the right words to express what he wants to say. These disorders, however, do not impede him from maintaining his everyday habits. The “Social Intervention Resources for Alzheimer’s” published by ”la Caixa” Foundation are intended to assist patients in the early stages of the disease, to ease their daily tasks and, in short, to improve their quality of life and that of their families.

Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Disease

This guide is based on experiences undergone by Alzheimer’s sufferers who belong to support groups for persons at the early stage of the disease. Written in the first person, the guide begins with a short introduction telling the reader how to spot the differences between loss of memory caused by Alzheimer’s and normal age-related memory loss. It continues with practical tips for dealing with day-to-day life and concludes with a series of messages for family members and friends of the patient.

Diary

At this early stage of the disease, it is frequent for the patient to suffer memory lapses. A diary is a good tool for minimising this deficit, since it helps to substitute the internal memory. This diary has been designed to assist the patient in such everyday tasks as remembering key telephone numbers or knowing how to operate the washing machine. It is pocket-sized, thus enabling him to have it with him at all times, and its pages are headed by clear drawings that automatically refer back to the concept.

Architecture Guide

Accessibility, safety and comfort; these are qualities the home of an Alzheimer’s sufferer should not be without. Adapting the home to the patient’s needs improves both his quality of life and that of his caregivers. The Architecture Guide. Adapting and Setting Up the Home for Those with Alzheimer’s and Mobility Deficiencies puts forth a number of proposals and elements which make it possible to adapt a home practically, effectively and without a major financial outlay.

Legal Protection for the Alzheimer’s Patient

The disease brings about a progressive loss of one’s intellectual faculties. Those affected cannot concentrate. They become disoriented, lose their memory, and have difficulties in reading, counting and controlling money. Such a situation of deterioration can eventually pose legal problems for both the patient and his caregivers.

Legal Protection for the Alzheimer’s Patient is a guide aimed at patients, their family members and, in general, everyone in contact with the Alzheimer’s patient. It aims to discuss matters having to do with legally protecting the patient and helping all people involved in the disease process, in the taking of decisions. The publication describes the legal resources available to the patient in both the early and advanced stages of the disease, such as: self-guardianship, drawing up a preventive power of attorney and what is known as the “living will”.

Alzheimer’s, Mourning and the Living Will

What will become of me when I am no longer responsible for my actions? Will I be put in a residence? Will my life be prolonged artificially? The “living will” makes it possible to prepare for these and other eventualities, thus enabling the patient to decide with full awareness how he wishes to die and make sure he will receive best care possible until the final moment.
The guide Alzheimer’s, Mourning and the Living Will seeks to help those who live with an Alzheimer’s sufferer in the family to reflect on the end of life and to make decisions that will benefit not only the patient but also themselves.
The publication focuses on the living will, an advance directive that sees to protecting the dignity of the patients and which may be of enormous help for Alzheimer’s sufferers.

www.fundacio.lacaixa.es

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